A new report from the Education Policy Institute in partnership with the NDNA has revealed that the early years sector has been heavily reliant on the furlough scheme during the height of winter lockdown.

The report, which examines how early years settings were impacted by the pandemic during winter, shows that a lack of demand for early years education from families, together with financial instability in the sector, was responsible for a large proportion of staff being placed on furlough.

The full report can be found here, but the key findings are as follows:

  • “Overall, up to 38% of early years staff were on furlough between November 2020 and February 2021, with an average of 11% of staff placed on full-time furlough and 27% on part-time furlough. 38% represents a maximum figure, as some settings could have placed workers on both full-time and part-time furlough during the survey period.
  • Official monthly figures for the UK population as a whole show that 13% of the total workforce were on furlough in November and December, while 16% were in January.
  • The proportion of workers on furlough was also far greater than anticipated: in a previous survey, the sector expected just 10% of staff to be on the scheme over this period (3% on full time furlough and 7% on part-time furlough).
  • It is likely that the increased use of furlough in the early years may have led to fewer redundancies in the sector during this period: on average, settings saw zero redundancies in their workforce.
  • In England and Wales, 72% of early years settings have had to close fully or partially between November and February.
  • The average number of children attending settings in these two countries was 28% lower than the previous (pre-pandemic) year.
  • In Scotland, settings were asked to remain open only for vulnerable children and children of key workers during the national lockdown in early 2021, resulting in 84% of settings remaining open.
  • The number of overall staff in the workforce remained largely stable over the period between November and February, but there was significant variation between this: 31% of settings saw no change in the total number of staff they employed between November and February, while 54% had seen a rise and 15% had seen a fall.
  • Staff with lower qualifications were more likely than other staff to have been placed on full-time furlough: 12% of the least-qualified staff were placed on full-time furlough, compared to 5% of the most qualified staff (those with a Level 6 qualification).
  • Those in between on Level 3 qualifications, who are officially counted in minimum staff-to-child ratios, which settings must maintain, were also much more likely to be on full-time furlough – 10% of such staff were over this period.
  • This suggests that such staff are continuing to experience some of the most negative effects of the pandemic, such as reduced job security and income.

You can read the full story, with industry leader comments, on the NDNA website here.


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